How Do You Communicate Your Ideas? (11) Physical Appearance In Delivering Your Speech Presentation

A public speaker must be mindful of his or her physical appearance, which like attractiveness, includes, social, emotional, intellectual, vocal presence, handling of the speech manuscript, managing communication apprehension, eye contacts, the smile, hand gestures, handshakes, posture, dexterity in handling the information and communication technologies in the speaking situation; and above all, the capability to adjust ideas to the audience, and adjust the audience to the ideas in real-time.

It is tempting to read and understand physical appearance as attractiveness. The word attractiveness has multiple dimensions as does appearance.

Physical appearance is not exclusive to physical body characteristics.

When a public speaker is evaluated by the audience in the speaking environment, the components of mastery of the entire physical environment of the speaking arena is taken into consideration, not just his or her personal appearance [See my article “Personal Appearance and Delivering Speech Presentations.” in this series].

Mastering the physical space in the speaking arena include: the handling of the public address systems, speaking into the microphones, standing behind or beside the podium or lectern; moving around in the speaking space, time management, relateability with the audience, comportment, posture, carriage, hand gestures, body movement, vocal mannerisms, and eye contacts, and so on.

I have opted to use the phrase, physical appearance, as an umbrella phrase to cover all the nitty gritty elements in the physical speaking arena, as well as the speaker’s physical ability and sensitivity to the space of speaking.

Public Speaker and Physical Appearance

So a public speaker would necessarily look, and be emotionally attractive and present to the audience in the speaking context. By this I mean that the speaker must be communicatively sensitive to adjust accordingly to the audience members present at the speaking event. That emotional presence transfers onto personal presence.

The public speaker in any speech event must be professionally attired to meet the expectations and requirements of the specific and particular occasion. [See my article, “Personal Appearance and Delivering Your Speech/Presentation.” in this series]

The public speaker must understand and adjust accordingly to the cultural nuances and expectations of the audience members in the speaking environment. And that is part of the physical elements in the space of speaking. It would not be appropriate for a three-piece suited man or woman to give a speech in a room full of members of a gang when she or he is persuading against gang lifestyle. Unless the topic is informative on how a former gangster cleaned-up to become a corporate executive. That informative can morph into a persuasive speech.

The public speaker must know the speaking arena ahead of the speech presentation. Knowing the physical context ahead of the event allows the speaker to learn to adjust the volume as well as the content of the speech presentation.

Knowing the physical space for the speech assist the speaker not to be surprised when it is time to speak, thereby causing emotional arousal that can impact negatively the physical elements of the event.

Your skills in mastering the physical environment of the speech event adds to your likeability by the audience, in so far as you are not ruffled by the sudden malfunctioning of the electronic equipments in the speaking arena.

Mastery of the physical space of the speaking engagement is advantageous to your competence.

Mastery of the physical space of the event communicates confidence and intelligence if your physical appearance is integrative of all the components that make the speaking event memorable and comfortable to the audience.

Physical Appearance and Speaker Credibility

Physical appearance adds to speaker credibility in the extend that the speaker knows well the physical environment so as to forestall any acts that could heighten his or her anxieties.

Physical appearance is an integral part of your vocal competence in that you cannot be all dazzling looking but get easily rattled by the audience members who ask an uncomfortable question, or when the public address systems malfunctions while you speak.

Physical appearance without passion to the subject or topic is meaningless.

Appropriate physical appearances send various messages to the audience: respect, regard, appreciation, sincerity, engaging attitude and issue involvement

Because every speaker is bound to be nervous, physical aspects to delivery are critical to perceived and real-time competence and credibility.

Physical appearance is like a soldier putting his or her body on the line of fire, knowing he or she might be shot at. So you become scared, fearful and vulnerable. That moment of insecurity shows all over your body and communicates immaturity and unprofessionalism.

All eyes are on you. This is great. When audiences look at you, it sends you a message that you are center stage, front stage, and back stage. It means they are interested in what you have to say, or are saying; and that they are paying attention to you and the topic you are speaking on

Your physical appearance at these moments involve you display of knowledge of the topic.

Physical appearance shows in your composure and in your tone of voice.

You communicate confidence, knowledge, pleasantness, and competence, all of which add to your physical appearance as a comfortable speaker and the audience as willing partners in the process of knowledge sharing.

Your physical appearance in moments like this comes first through your facial expressions; in the emotions, and enthusiasm for the speaking event, the topic, and the audience.

Facial expressions are part of your physical appearance because they show engagement. Your face must be lively, not cold, distant and dead pan.

Reach out and touch the audience with your facial expressions of smile, and relaxed eye brow and the relaxed forehead.

Monitoring your physical appearance means you know when to smile and when to be serious as a speaker with a mission to bring your audience to the topic and the occasion.

Your physical appearance in the speaking arena means you do not leave any audience member out, by monitoring their nonverbal gestures toward the content delivery.

Physical appearance involves your use and mastery of the workings of visual aids. Visual aids can add to your speech’s comprehension. But, they can also take away if you do not know how to handle them and thereby become a negative to your physical delivery and physical appearance.


Failure to handle the visual aids may make you nervous, jittery, anxious, and ashamed and look incompetent, and unprepared.

All these impact your assessment as a competent and credible public speaker. Use the visuals effectively and professionally to enhance your credibility.

Audience will definitely assess your competence, credibility on your clothing and personal appearance. So dress appropriately.[See my article on Personal Appearance in this series]

Physical appearance also involves your body movements when used to emphasize a point. So know the points in your speech where body language can add to your effectiveness as a public speaker. For example, your index finger can be used to emphasize a point. Be careful not to use the V-sign backward as it means vulgar gesture in non-western cultures.


Physical appearance is not same as personal appearance; but it incorporates elements of personal delivery skills.

Physical appearance involves speaker’s gestures, postures, gait, hand movements, body language, and clothing, hairdo or hairstyles, time management, before and during and after the speaking event, management of physical disruptions and failures in the speaking arena, emotional maturity toward audience outbursts, protests, and disruptions in the speech event, and all other elements that make up the physical presence of both the audience and the speaker.

Physical appearance most obviously includes the mastery of the electronic as well as all other telecommunication equipments in the speaking arena. This refers to the knowledge of the operations of the visual aids, video players, and audio systems of communications like the microphones, internet connectivity and the other applications that would make for interactivity and international connectivity during the speech if and when there are requirements for international feeds and out-of-location simulcast, for example.

Any perceptions of nervousness or real signs of anxiety and nervousness during these and all other interfaces negatively impact the evaluations and performances of the speaker


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